The Bulls insist they are trying to win games. But actions speak louder than words.
They are 0-4 since tinkering with the rotation after the all-star break. With their upcoming three-game homestand, the Bulls will face two other members of the Group of Eight, those teams vying for the NBA's worst record. They play Dallas on Friday and Memphis next week.
Bulls game dayBulls vs. Dallas Mavericks at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The Mavericks have gone 3-12 since Jan. 24, but have shown signs of life lately, beating Indiana on Monday, then losing to Oklahoma City by a point in overtime on Wednesday. SF Harrison Barnes is the top scorer at 18.3 ppg, followed by rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. at 14.6 and SG Wesley Matthews with 13.0. Dirk Nowitzki, 39, is averaging 12.2 ppg and Dallas added ex-Bulls SF Doug McDermott before the trade deadline. The Bulls beat the Mavs in Dallas 127-124 on Jan. 5 as Kris Dunn scored a career-high 32 points.
Next: Boston Celtics at the United Center on Monday, 7 p.m.
-- Mike McGraw
"I don't know one person that goes out there and tries to lose," Kris Dunn said Thursday after practice. "You could get hurt trying to do something like that. We go out there, we play hard, we're trying to compete. We're trying to play the right way. Right now, we're going through a little bit of adversity. But we'll get through it."
Dunn says the recent problems are a chemistry issue. Not only did the Bulls add Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba to the starting lineup after the all-star break, the Tomorrow Trio of Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen has played just seven games together this season.
"Losing's not on our agenda," Dunn said. "Chemistry is a big thing. When you're trying to get a team together, we've got to get our timing down, our flow, our pace. We're playing faster, but the flow of the game, we have to figure out where everybody's going to be at on the floor."
Dunn has some evidence to support his theory. When chemistry clicked earlier this season, the Bulls went from a 3-20 start to a 14-7 surge. Those wins seemed to knock the Bulls out of contention for a top-five draft pick, but through Wednesday's results, just 2 games separated the bottom eight teams.
Asked if it bothers him when people suggest the Bulls aren't trying their hardest to win, coach Fred Hoiberg's answer was brief.
"We know we're trying to win," he said. "We know we're trying to win every time we step on the floor."
In their first game after the all-star break, the Bulls played well at home against Philadelphia, but gave up a late lead. During an 0-3 road trip, the Bulls stayed close for a half before losing badly in all three.
There's no single area where the Bulls took a wrong turn. They were down in most every category. Turnovers were up, assists down, the 3-point shooting took a dip and their defense was bad. The past three opponents -- Minnesota, Brooklyn and Charlotte -- combined to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.
"Right now, we're just having stretches … where the attention to detail isn't where it needs to be," Hoiberg said. "We're turning the ball over way too much. We need to make simple, solid plays and have the attention to detail on the defensive end."
The starters just started playing together, and with veterans Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez taking a seat the Bulls might be feeling a leadership void on the defensive end.
"In the (December) winning streak, we had a nice chemistry going on," Dunn said. "RoLo who's a veteran player, Justin who's a veteran player, it made things easier. But now that we have a lot more young guys, me, Zach and Lauri are trying to figure out how to play with each other.
"It's tough on us. At the same time we don't get frustrated. We're young. There's beauty behind the struggle. We've got to keep playing."